Researchers at Cambridge University have developed a way to create strong, lightweight electrical cables out of a form of carbon which they
believe can replace copper.
According to the researchers, the new carbon nanotubes and their compounds “exhibit extraordinary electrical properties for organic
materials, and have a huge potential in electrical and electronic applications such as photovoltaics, sensors, semiconductor devices, displays, conductors,
smart textiles and energy conversion device”.
These tubes have the potential to completely replace copper wire as the main material for conducting electricity.
Carbon nanotubes are thin, hollow cylinders that are only a tenth of the weight of copper, but are more similar to graphene and are much stronger
and flexible, and can also be joined to conventional metal wires, the University says.
This ability to connect to regular wire is a huge step forward.
"It is reasonably simple for us to make a metre-long wire made of carbon and use it in an electrical system,” Dr Krzysztof Koziol, from Cambridge’s department of Materials Science & Metallurgy, explained.
“No longer are we talking about millimetre-long, minute samples. But a metre of wire is one thing; incorporating it into a house
or an aeroplane is quite another. A highly-efficient carbon wire is of no practical use if it cannot be connected to conventional systems. While metal wires can be connected to each other through soldering, carbon cannot be connected to metal in this way using regular tin-based solder.”
Now it can.
Koziol’s team developed the carbon nanotube alloy which can solder carbon wires and metal wires allowing for carbon wires to be integrated into metal-based systems.
“The solder could also be used for graphene, which is currently joined by clamping sheets together.”